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Facilitating Transfer Student Success in an Engineering Baccalaureate Program

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

ERM Technical Session 9: Persistence and Retention

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Nena E. Bloom Northern Arizona University

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Dr. Nena Bloom is an evaluator and education researcher at the Center for Science Teaching and Learning at Northern Arizona University. The primary area of her work is evaluating STEM education projects that focus on opportunities for, and retention of, K-20 students in STEM areas, majors and fields. She also conducts education research focusing on questions about professional development for educators and how educators support student learning in STEM.

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Jennifer Johnson Northern Arizona University

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Jennifer Johnson has been working in higher education for over 10 years on various projects related to STEM student recruitment and retention. Her education is in Mechanical Engineering, which after five years working in industry, she applied towards several entrepreneurial ventures. As an advocate for underrepresented and non-traditional STEM students, Jen’s years at Northern Arizona University working on grant funded programs supporting these students have been very rewarding.

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Jennifer Marie Duis Northern Arizona University

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Augsburg College, Chemistry, B.S., 1999
University of Colorado—Boulder, Organic Chemistry, M.S., 2002
University of Northern Colorado, Chemical Education, Ph.D., 2008
University of British Columbia, Chemistry Teaching Laboratory Optimization with CWSEI, 2008—2011
Assistant Professor, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, August 2011—2017
Lecturer, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, January 2018 -- present

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Pauline Entin University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

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Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, 2018-present, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, 2014-2018, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, 2010-2014, College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ
Assist/Assoc/Full Professor, Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, 2001-2018
Post-Doctoral Fellowship 1997-2000 Physiology, University of California, San Diego
Ph.D. 1997 Physiology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
B.A. 1991 Biology, Brown University, Providence, RI

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This evidence-based practice paper presents research investigating if programmatically promoting transfer student involvement is an effective institutional strategy for improving engineering transfer student retention. Community colleges play an important role in the educational experiences of college graduates in science and engineering fields, with 50% of graduates having attended a community college previously (Mooney & Foley, 2011). Transfer to universities provides an access point for many underserved students, who represent a large percentage of community college students. Transfer students therefore are an important pool to complete baccalaureate degrees in engineering, to fulfill workforce needs and to diversify the field. Transfer students typically have little access to student supports such as orientation, retention efforts or scholarships as they transition to a four-year institution. Without supports, the transfer experience can be a challenge as students adjust to campus life, leading to slower degree progress and attrition. For instance, the six year transfer student graduation rate from X School is 59%, below the rate for first-time freshmen. Institutions are beginning to recognize the importance of their role in STEM transfer student retention and provide additional supports to this group.

Astin’s (1995) developmental theory of student involvement, posits that academic and social involvement in higher education supports success. (Program name), a scholarship and support program, was developed for transfer students in the Science and Engineering College at X School to improve the STEM transfer experience and to increase retention and success. Forty-four students in three cohorts participated in the program for up to two years. Participants were selected based on merit and financial need. Demographics of the participants were: 44% engineering majors, 48% female, 33% from underrepresented minority groups, and 43% first-generation college students. Students received a two-year scholarship and participated in a seminar course during their first semester of transfer. Follow-up supports included mentoring and advising, and funds for conference travel.

In this mixed-methods study, the overarching research question was: How do the supports provided by the (program name) affect STEM transfer experiences? Student experiences were examined through participant and non-participant surveys and exit interviews with 30 2nd-year program participants. Academic outcomes of retention and time to graduation were also examined. A post-program survey tracked and described STEM careers of participants. Deductive coding using a framework was used for analysis of qualitative data. Quantitative data was analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Findings indicate that participants identified both academic and social involvement as important for their success. Participation in professional opportunities within their field, such as undergraduate research and internships, was identified as particularly critical. Overall, two-year program retention was 80%, retention at the home institution was 89%, and retention in a STEM major was 93%. Lessons learned, including the challenges of completing the engineering degree program as a transfer student in two-years, were identified. Based on evidence of effectiveness, the seminar course promoting student involvement was sustained as a successful program element.

Bloom, N. E., & Johnson, J., & Duis, J. M., & Entin, P. (2019, June), Facilitating Transfer Student Success in an Engineering Baccalaureate Program Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32831

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